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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
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Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Rise of Afghan Films
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   Seoul Raiders  


Seoul Raiders

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Director: Jingle Ma Cho Sing
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Richie Jen, Shu Qi, Meme Tian, Saki Seto, Choi Yei Jin
Genre: Action
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Year Released 2005
Rating: ½* (out of four stars)

It's kind of appropriate that much of Seoul Raiders revolves around a pair of counterfeit note printing plates nicknamed "The Avenger", because my appreciation of the film (or lack of, to be precise) falls somewhere around the same level as the abominable The Avengers quite a few years back. In short, I hate Seoul Raiders, and can hardly find any redeeming point in the entire plodding 98 minutes of the film. The only thing I really enjoyed were the last five minutes, when I knew that the torturous experience will soon be over. It's a pity, really - Tokyo Raiders was a rather enjoyable motion picture, but this sequel doesn't make the grade at all.

Seoul Raiders is pretty much Tokyo Raiders, except that it's set in Seoul (bet you knew that already). Lam (Tony Leung) is still a special agent from Japan, but he's roped in to help retrieve a pair of printing plates named "The Avenger", which can be used to create counterfeit US$100 notes that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. In the process of obtaining the plates, he crosses paths with JJ (Shu Qi), who also has her sights set on The Avenger, only her intentions are purely monetary. Unfortunately for the two of them, Owen (Richie Jen), who works for the US Consulate, cons Lam out of the plates and takes flight to Seoul, where he has plans to sell The Avenger to "Polar Bear", the head of the biggest counterfeit ring in Asia. Lam and JJ immediately travel to Seoul, in hopes of pinning down Owen before the transaction is made.

To say that Seoul Raiders has a plot is slightly overstating matters, because it seems like writer-director Jingle Ma is merely rehashing ideas that have been seen in HK flicks for the past two decades, and not even successfully so. Tokyo Raiders was intriguing, but in Seoul Raiders I couldn't care less if the plates ended up back in the US or in the hands of "Polar Bear" (what an awe-uninspiring name for an overlord, honestly), or if the identity of said Bear is revealed or not. It's simply an uninvolving plot that few can find any empathy with, and it doesn't help that even Tony Leung gives a phone-in performance that is not befitting an actor of his stature. As for the supporting cast like Shu Qi and Richie Jen, as well as the female Korean extras - well the less said the better. Although not bordering on pure acting badness like in The Park and Wesley's Mysterious Files, this should be considered an embarrassment for all involved.

Also, one of the better things about Tokyo Raiders was its sense of style - Jingle Ma pulled out all the stops in the first movie, employing more camera trickery than virtually any other mainstream HK movie I had seen at that time - but in Seoul Raiders his technique is sloppy. If keeping objects blurry for several seconds before pulling them into focus is considered style, then Jingle Ma has certainly outdone himself. There are also zero good fight sequences to speak of, and Jingle even has the audacity to sanction some very blatant rip-offs of Kill Bill. Not only is the main theme of the movie very reminiscent of Tomoyasu Hotei's Battle Without Honour or Dignity, which was used in Kill Bill Vol. 1, I am pretty sure the scene where a silly fight in a bathhouse is scored to a traditional-sounding Japanese (or Korean) song also pays "homage" somewhat to Tarantino's choice of Meiko Kaiji's Flower of Carnage in the same movie.

It's not a totally unbearable film - there are some moments of mild hilarity, and at 98 minutes at least it ends quickly enough before it becomes truly irksome, but this still ranks as a totally unnecessary sequel. It seems as though even the production crew and cast realizes how unnecessary this film is, because nobody's heart seems to be in it, at least from my point of view. To spend money watching this insincere piece of work is only slightly better than throwing the same amount of money down the drain.

Final Word: Avoid, avoid, avoid.